Unless you’ve been in hibernation for the past several months, you’ll be fully aware that Christopher and Jonathan Nolan will be bringing us the conclusion to their Batman films next year with The Dark Knight Rises, and there’s every reason to expect that it is going to be nothing short of being utterly immense.

Photos and footage from the set have been unusually frequent through the filming stages of The Dark Knight Rises, with plenty of unofficial set photos and videos surfacing for quite some time.

What we’ve seen officially has been few and far between, but it’s all been brilliant. We first got a look at Tom Hardy as Bane back in May. Then came an awesome first poster for the film in July, followed swiftly by the first teaser trailer, which was just a little bit epic. And most recently, we got our official first look at Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and needless to say, it was ridiculously cool.

We’ve now got two more great official photos to share with you, which are gracing the January 2012 edition of Empire magazine. The issue will be coming in two forms, one with Batman on the cover, and one with Bane, so choose wisely (or choose both, if you can’t choose between them).

The covers boast more official set photos inside the issue, so we can no doubt look forward to more excellent images surfacing soon. As much as I love the first two of Nolan’s films, I have to admit that my knowledge of Batman isn’t extensive beyond them, and so I can’t say whether what Batman’s holding in his cover is something entirely new or something that ties into his comic book history. I can say that it looks ridiculously awesome, whatever it is; judging by the way Christian Bale is looking down the top of it, as if taking aim, I’d guess it is some sort of weapon, but naturally only time will tell.

Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman will all be reprising their roles – and Cillian Murphy has reportedly been seen on the set – and they are joined by a further fantastic cast, including Hathaway, Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Juno Temple, and Josh Pence.

Despite the numerous unofficial images and videos from the set, I think Nolan still has so much about the film being kept under wraps – not least of which being the plot – and I think we’ve got a lot of surprises to look forward to next summer. The Dark Knight Rises will be hitting the big screen on 20th July next year, and by all accounts, it looks like it’s going to be incredible. Without further ado, here are the great new images. As usual, click to enlarge.