They say the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist
The greatest trick James Jesse ever pulled was convincing the Devil that he wasn’t a threat.
It’s the big secret that most of the mystic heroes deny the truth of and most of the mundane heroes aren’t aware of; that a simple con-man and sometimes super-villain named James Jesse (a.k.a. The Trickster) managed to single-handedly save the world by cheating the demon lord Neron out of his due.
For the most part, the fact that hardly anybody knew what he’d done suited James Jesse just fine. Having your face broadcast on the news does wonders to kill your career as a con-man. And he certainly wouldn’t want to be a superhero, even if most of the community had been as understanding as The Flash regarding the many shades of grey in the world and the fact that there are Heroes, Innocents, Villains and Rogues. James was quite definitely a Rogue.
Still, The Trickster decided it would do his soul some good to try and play the side of the angels a little more often. So James Jesse became something of a Robin Hood; using his wits and his cunning to take money from The Villains then turning it around and using it to make things better for the Innocents.
It was this new desire to do good that lead James to top himself and defeat Neron a second time. With Neron chasing after all of The Rogues following their escape from Hell (long story) James sent the rest of The Rogues after a holy artifact called The Sun Disk of Meshta. Meshta was an obscure but powerful god of Light and his Sun Disk was said to have the power to repel even the most powerful of demons. The Rogues thought the plan was to steal the disk to protect themselves. But as always, The Trickster had an angle.
James had been contacted days earlier by an old girlfriend, Mindy, who told him about the Meshtan religion and explained that her son Billy was the new Majee – a holyman who is selected by Meshta once a millennium to usher in a new golden age. Billy and the rest of the monks of Meshta had been kidnapped by a warlord who sought to use the legend of the Majee to subdue the populace and to convince them to surrender the region without fighting.
To make a long story short, James’ plan to save Billy AND The Rogues worked, although not quite as he had intended. Most of the warlord's followers scattered following a “manifestation” of Meshta that was created by a mixture of Trickster illusions and Pied Piper sound effects. Neron manifested only to be struck down by a true manifestation of Meshta that Billy summoned forth. Neron was injured severely, forcing him to make a deal with James to forget about the Meshtan Monks, Billy and all the Rogues … except James, who said “I want you to remember the guy who fed you two plates of crow!”
Neron did remember. He remembered the name of James Jesse well. So when James Jesse died after being unceremoniously shot in the head AND heart, he was not at all surprised to find that Neron was waiting for him and had lain claim to his soul by Right of Insult. (Ever read Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits? Same thing.) James was however, somewhat surprised when Meshta appeared and said that the beating Neron received before would be nothing compared to what would happen that day...
...Unless Neron was ready to make a deal.
For not only did James put himself in Meshta’s good books by saving his Sun Disk, his temple, his monks and his chosen one; James was the biological father of The Chosen One. In going to help out an old girlfriend, James inadvertently wound up saving his own son and – through Billy – developed a direct line to The Powers That Be Upstairs. Who, it turns out, have a pretty good sense of humor.
The short version is that James Jesse is now free of Neron’s clutches and no longer has to worry about his past deeds taking him into the fire. The bad news is that Meshta, who has need of agents on Earth, now owns him... body and soul. This does beat the Hell out of the alternative (the alternative literally being Hell, of course) but James Jesse is too wild at heart to like the idea of owing anyone a favor and having to follow orders all the time. Luckily Meshta is understanding about this and finds amusement in James’ token efforts at rebellion.
Regardless of how he feels about it, James Jesse is now a man with a mission from (an aspect of) God. Basically, the mission is a rather vague standing order to keep doing what he was doing; steal from the thieves and give to the poor. But, and this was a pretty big but, be ready to move if your son calls and says you need to do something.
James hasn’t made contact with any of his old buddies in The Rogues – he’s moved past them and he’s not too sure how they’ll feel about his new mission. Besides, being legally dead is rather useful in most circumstances for somebody who makes a habit of pretending to be other people. In fact, the only piece of his old life that he’s accessed recently is his collection of “procured” super-villain weapons, which he was studying to make some new “tricks”. And that’s where he was when Billy called him and said that he needed to get Walker Gabriel’s old watch out of the safe it was locked in.
And that was how James Jesse came to the rescue of our time-lost heroes and set everyone on the road to restoring the time-stream. James was rather relieved to see Ollie (such as he was) and noted that he’d have been glad to have helped them out with this even if he weren’t “getting orders from the boss” to do so. “I owe Ollie a big one,” was all James would say on the subject.
Ollie was confused by this but accepted James at his word and agreed to dismiss any debt that James owed him.
So why did Meshta care about so much about restoring the time stream, apart from the obvious reasons any deity/demigod might wish to ensure that reality stay intact? Believe it or not, it was because of love. Above all else, Meshta is a being of pure love and one of the few times he is able to take a direct hand in matters in the Earthly realms is when great destruction would result due to the death of a true and noble love.
Ollie and Dinah’s love is such a love. A love forged in destiny the destruction of which would have dire consequences for the world at large.
(Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a romantic sap at heart….)
There is one problem though; Per Degaton saw this coming and has an army of his Red Morgue soldiers waiting. And in their current state, none of Team Arrow are in fighting shape...
Except Cissie King, who in this moment finds the purpose she was seeking and the connection she’d longed for as the Arrowette of this world became a real hero.
The basic end result is that the timeline will “settle” into something very much like what we have now. Some of the fine details will be changed (i.e. retconning away the stuff that doesn’t make sense) but for the most part everyone will show up back in front of Ollie’s brownstone. Including The Trickster, who will ask if Ollie or Dinah have any objection to him relocating to Star City. He needs a new place to start a base of operations and he’s pretty sure – given the city’s history with demonic invasions – that they could use the help of someone who has some experience in thinking his way around the boys downstairs.
They agree to give it a shot - after all, it’s not this is first time anyone in the family has made arrangements with a semi-reformed villain who has settled into the city, after all - Deadshot’s ex and daughter are still around somewhere and Catman is still on the Christmas Card list.
So James begins to set himself up as The Shade to the Arrow family’s O’Dares; a rogue but an honest rogue who will help them with the trials to come. And Oh Brother, are there going to be trials to come…
I freely admit - this one is just for me. Because I don't think anyone did him justice after what he did in Underworld Unleashed and I HATE the way he died like a punk in Countdown.
Still, I think I've done a fairly good job of giving him a reason to be the savior at the end of this story and a supporting player in a Black Canary/Green Arrow book I'd write.
And yes, I do plan to tell the story of why he owes Ollie one. Later.