This collection encompasses Batman #608-619, written by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee.
Overall- Well, since this hardcove is 12 issues long, I obviously won't be able to review each issue specifically, instead I'll just go over the broad strokes of the story. Needless to say, this is going to be a LONG post!
Basically, Batman is confronted with his rouges gallery acting in different ways then he would expect them to. Batman feels like they have been taught to behave in a diffenet manner in an attempt to confound him. After rescuing a small boy from Killer Croc, Batman chases after Catwoman, who had stolen ransom money from Croc. While chasing Catwoman, a third party cuts Batman's line, and causes him to crash into the street below, fracturing his skull. Bats is rescued by Huntress, and Alfred tries to fix Bruce up as much as he can, but realizes that Bruce will need to go to a hospital. Bruce, barely conscious and unable to speak, taps in morse code to Alfred, telling him to get his old childhood friend and respected surgeon Tommy Elliot to work on him. Tommy Elliot, flies into Gotham, and manages to repair the damage to Bruce's skull. After Tommy saves Bruce and the two reconnect.
Later, Batman tracks down Catwoman, and discovers that she had been enthralled by Pioson Ivy to steal the ransom money from Croc. Bats and Catwoman team up and track Ivy and the money to Metropolis, where they naturally run into Superman, who has been enthralled by Ivy now. Bats beats up Supes with the Kryptonite ring and forces him to snap out of his Ivy induced trance by having Catwoman threaten Lois Lane. Working together, Supes, Bats and Catwoman hunt down Ivy, and take her down, retrieving the money, and locking her up. All the while a strange figure with his face bandaged watches the action from nearby rooftops. At the conclusion of the mission, Bats and Catwoman share a passionate kiss.
Back in Gotham, Bruce Wayne along with Tommy Elliot and Selina Kyle(Catwoman)go to the opera for a benefit for Leslie Thompkin's clinic. While enjoying the opera, Harley Quinn arrives and begins to rob the rich opera goers. Harley steals a necklace from Tommy that belonged to his dead mother and he flips out, trying to attack her to get it back. In response, Harley opens fire into the crowded theater. By this time, Bruce has snuck away, and switched into his Bat outfit. Batman attacks Harley, and is soon joined by Catwoman, who takes a gunshot in the shoulder while heplping Bats. Harley tries to make a getaway with the money/jewels she has taken and is chased by Tommy, who is still trying to retrieve his mother's necklace. Batman chases after both of them, but hears a gunshot outside the theater, where Harley and Tommy wound up. Upon arriving outside, Batman sees Tommy's dead body laying at the feet of the Joker.
Batman attacks the Joker with a rage and begins to pummel The Clown Prince of Crime. Harley tries to sneak up on Bats, but he puts her down hard, before returning his attention to the Joker. As he beats on Joker, Batman begins to think back on Joker's crimes, including his paralyzing Barbara Gordon, his murder of Jim Gordon's wife, and Batman's greatest failure, the murder of Jason Todd. Batman decides that Tommy's murder is the last straw, and he decides to strangle the Joker to death. Catwoman arrives on the scene, and tries to stop Bats from doing something he would forever regret, but Bats takes her out by attacking her damaged shoulder. Joker claims innocence, stating that he didn't kill Tommy, even though he was standing right over the dead body. Bats doesn't care and continues to strangle Joker. Two shots ring out, with each one whizzing by Batman. Jim Gordon puts a gun to the back of Batman's head and tells him to release Joker or he would be forced to take Bats in. Batman, stung by the fact that Jim Gordon of all people doesn't want him to kill Joker, relents and leaves the Joker beaten but alive. All the while, a mysterious bandaged figure watches the scene play out from the rooftops.
After burying Tommy, Batman returns to the Batcave, and begins to study the death of his childhood friend, discovering that Tommy was killed by a policeman's service revolver, not one of the Joker's guns. Nightwing stops by to check on Bats and is suprised to find him somewhat talkitive(well, for Batman at least). Nightwing inquires why Bats is taking Tommy's death so well, and Bats confides that lately he has found himself more attracted to Catwoman then ever before. Nightwing tells Bats that if he is going to attempt a relationship with Catwoman, Bats should tell her EVERTHING about his life, including his secret identity, otherwise, the relationship would never work. Bats blows off Nightwing's advice and the two go out crimefighting together, easily taking down the Riddler. Out of all of Batman's rouges, the Riddler seems to be the only one still operating with his normal motive, making riddles and stealing money, which suprises Batman, since all of his other enemies have changed. Before turning the truck Riddler and his men stole over to the cops, Batman notices ash handprints inside the truck, ash very similar to the ash found in one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pits. Later, Batman visits Catwoman at her civilian home and tells her he wants to make it work with her and he reveals his identity to her.
Batman returns to the Batcave, with Catwoman and tries to figure out who would have the resources and motive to strike at both Batman and Bruce Wayne, and decides that it must be Ra's Al Ghul or his daughter Talia. Bats sneaks aboard Talia's private airplane and kidnaps her in mid-flight. After handing Talia over to Catwoman for safekeeping, Bats is contacted by Ra's, who demands his daughter's return. Bats meets with Ra's in a desert, and Ra's challenges Bats to a sword fight, claiming that if Bats won, he would tell him everything he knew. Batman winds up defeating Ra's by fighting differently then usual, much like his rouges have been doing to him. Ra's tells Batman that he is not involved in the scheme against him, and that he too was being played with, since somebody had used one of his Lazarus Pits without his consent. Ra's asks Bats to look into the matter, insinuating that Bats recent problems and someone using Ra's Lazarus Pit may be connected. With that Bats promises to release Talia and discover who emerged from the Lazarus Pit. Upon returning to where he had left Catwoman and Talia, Bats discovers Catwoman and Lady Shiva(a top assassin from Ra's League of Assassins)unconscious and Talia tending to Catwoman's wounds. Talia gives Batman a kiss and leaves... Boy, Batman really has a complicated love life...
Batman takes Catwoman back to the Cave again, but this time Robin is there and Robin becomes enraged at the fact that Catwoman is allowed in the Cave. Robin calls Catwoman a lowlife thief and the two nearly come to blows if not for Batman's intervention. Catwoman tires of Robin's goading, and leaves the Cave. We discover that Bats had Robin deliberately bait Catwoman so they could keep an eye on her, since with the Al Ghul's ruled out, Batman was beginning to suspect that Catwoman might be behind his recent misfortunes. While this is occuring, Harvey Dent visits Joker in prison and tells him he wasn't being charged in the murder of Tommy Elliot due to insufficient evidence. Joker is shocked to see that Harvey's face was completely cured of the scarring that turned him into Two-Face.
Catwoman runs into Huntress, who seems somewhat crazy and winds up attacking. Catwoman tries to fight the crazed Huntress off, and is soon helped by Batman who had been following Catwoman with Robin. Robin remains on a rooftop to watch Batman's back, but is jumped from behind by the mysterious bandaged figure and knocked unconscious. Batman realizes that Huntress is under the influence of the Scarecrow's fear drugs and puts her out and gives her the antidote. The Scarecrow himself now attacks Batman, but suprisingly can't drug Batman because Batman is under the influence of some other mental conditioning. Batman takes out Scarecrow and realizes he is standing near the grave of Jason Todd. Upon reaching Jason's grave, Bats finds the grave dug up and the bandaged figure holding a knife to Robin's throat.
Batman demands the bandaged figure to release Robin, but the bandaged figure refuses, calling Robin a pretender, before peeling off the bandages to reveal Jason Todd. Batman is momentarily stunned, but refuses to believe his eyes. Catwoman winds up rescuing Robin and Jason runs through the graveyard, followed by Batman, who tells Catwoman to remain behind with Robin. Batman catches up to Jason and the two battle, but Batman begins to doubt that this is really Jason Todd returned from the dead for several reasons including the way he was fighting, as well as the fact that the real Jason Todd would have refered to him as Bruce, not Batman. Batman beats up "Jason" and watches as the body disolves into clay, indicating to Batman that the whole thing was a ruse orchestrated by Clayface.
Batman returns to the Cave with Robin and begins to tear it apart, figuring there was something present that was affecting his mind, which would explain why Scarecrow's fear drugs wouldn't affect him. Batman finds a hidden relay under one of his computer's that was sending a subliminal message to his brain. The message was a picture of Tommy Elliot that would flash on the computer screen. This image would explain why Batman thought of Tommy after his initial head injury. Now suspicious, Bats contacts Superman, who arrives at the Batcave soon thereafter. Bats asks Supes to use his X-Ray vision to peer in his head to find out if Tommy had left anything in his head after the surgury on his skull, and sure enough, Supes discovers a small device that was broadcasting Batman's location to someone. Bats has Superman burn the device out of his head with his heat vision, before he has Superman leave.
At this time, Harvey Dent gets in touch with Jim Gordon, who is as suprised as the Joker to find Harvey's face cured. Harvey tells Jim that Batman needed their help and the two leave together. Batman realizes that the hidden relay matched the work of Harold, a mute hunchback that used to work in the Batcave. Batman tracks Harold down to a bridge in Gotham. Batman discovers that Harold had been surgically given the ability to speak by none other than Tommy Elliot. In return, Tommy had Harold hide the relay in the Batcave. Before Harold can say anything else, he is shot twice in the chest and killed by the mystereious bandaged man. The bandaged man seems to be an expert marksman, and it takes all of Batman's skill to avoid the man's bullets. Batman winds up getting close to the bandaged man, and the bandaged man claims that he is actually Tommy Elliot. Tommy reveals stories only he and Bruce would know in an attempt to convince him, and reveals that he had been harboring a grudge against the Wayne family for years, due to the fact that Bruce's father had saved his mother after a bad car crash. Tommy had cut the brake wires in his mother's car so she would perish and he would inherit the family fortune.
Needless to say, Bruce refuses to believe this and asks about Tommy's dead body outside the theater. Tommy tells Bats that if he dug up Tommy's grave, all he would find is clay, indicating that is was Clayface who faked Tommy's death. Distracted, Batman is struck down by Tommy, who is now calling himself Hush, and Hush puts a gun to Batman's head. Behind him though are Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent, who was in on the scheme. Harvey was supposed to frame Jim Gordon for Tommy's "murder", which would have added more grief to Batman. Harvey reveals that he helped in the beginning so that Hush would cure his scarred face. However, in doing so the evil Two-Face persona had been eradicated, and Harvey wasn't interested in framing a good man like Jim. Hush, still holding Batman, decides to shoot him regardless of who was there, but winds up getting shot twice by Harvey first. Hush then falls off of the bridge and into the murky waters below.
After recovering, Batman searches the waters for Hush's body, but to no avail. Soon thereafter, Batman pays a visit to the Riddler who was still behind bars from earlier in the storyline. Batman tells Riddler that he figured out that Riddler and Hush were working together, but is unclear on why or how. Riddler reveals that he had an incurable brain tumor and had been seeing Hush while he was still simply a doctor. Since Riddler couldn't be helped by conventional science, he found one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pits and took a dip in it, thereby curing his cancer. While in the Pit, Riddler figured out the one riddle he could never solve, Batman's secret identity. Armed with this information, Riddler went back to Tommy, who hated Bruce Wayne and told him the Bruce and Bats were one and the same. Hush and Riddler then concocted their whole big plan to strike at both Bruce Wayne, Hush's enemy and Batman, Riddler's enemy.
Riddler then continued to taunt Batman by stating that at anytime he could reveal his secret identity and ruin him. Batman countered by telling Riddler if he revealed Batman's secret identity, it would no longer be a valid riddle, because if everyone knew the answer to the riddle, it would hold no value. While Riddler moped about this news, Batman also told Riddler that if he ever did tell anybody the secret, Bats would tell Ra's Al Ghul that Riddler had used one of the Lazarus Pits without permission, which would surely lead to Ra's killing Riddler in retribution. With that, Batman left Riddler and met up with Catwoman outside. Catwoman told Batman that if he couldn't trust her they couldn't be in a relationship just yet. Catwoman told Bats she held some hope that one day, Bats would trust her enough for them to really become serious. With that, Catwoman left Batman standing there alone.
All in all I really enjoyed all of the twists and turns this story held. Although I knew the identity of Hush going in, I can see how this storyline was so hot when it first came out. I was surrised about Bats revaling the secret to Catwoman, but I wasn't as angry about it as some hardcore Batman fans seem to be. I also liked that the story included practically every one of Batman's enemies with the exception of the Penguin(I HATE the Penguin!). The one thing that really bothered me about the story was the fact that Hush, and I mean Tommy Elliot, hardly appeared in the storyline at all. Sure, Tommy was in the beginning of the story, but Tommy as Hush only showed up at the very end, and even then wasn't unmasked. For the entire climatic battle between Hush and Batman, Hush remained hidden behind the bandages, never giving us that dramatic moment where he unraveled the bandages to reveal that Bruce Wayne's childhood friend had indeed gone evil. More Hush or that one dramatic moment would have made this a much better storyline, but as it was, this was still an exceptionally written and drawn storyline. For a score, I'll go with a 9 out of 10. Hopefully this review made some sense, because it sure was ALOT of typing!