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Small details you missed in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 3

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a Marvel fan's dream. It has a roster of 36 of Marvel's most beloved playable characters, and that doesn't count all of the supporting characters, villains, and cameo appearances. Its story takes you to every corner of the Marvel Universe, from the supervillain prison the Raft to the X-Mansion to the far reaches of space. There are hidden characters to unlock, upgrades to hunt down, and plenty of fan-friendly secrets to discover.

It's almost too much. In Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, fanservice is lurking everywhere, and it's not always easy to find. With all of the fighting going on, a few things are bound to slip by, so here are some of the best little details, cameos, and comic book references that even die-hard Marvel fans might've missed. Look, you're already busy saving the world. You can't be expected to pick up on all of those Easter eggs, too.

The Defenders live!

Sorry, Defenders fans. For better or worse, Netflix's role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is over. In anticipation of Disney+, a new streaming service that'll be chock full of Marvel content, Disney and Netflix cancelled their franchise of interconnected MCU spin-offs, most of which crossed over in a super-sized limited series called The Defenders.

Well, here's some good news: Netflix's Defenders might be gone, but its legacy lives on in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. Jessica Jones is dressed in her now-iconic jean and leather jacket combo, just like series star Krysten Ritter. One of the teams that you can put together is called the Defenders and includes Daredevil, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage in its line-up.

The best Netflix Easter egg, though, comes in Ultimate Alliance 3's Shadowland stage. If you have Daredevil on your team as you fight your way through the Kingpin's headquarters, Daredevil notes that he does his "best fighting in hallways." If you've binged Netflix's Daredevil, then you know that he's telling the truth. Does all of this make the shows' cancellation sting less? Not really, but it is a nice consolation prize.

All-star voice talent, assemble!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3's sprawling cast looks very familiar. To Marvel's true believers, it should sound familiar too. Ultimate Alliance 3's voice cast is full of actors with previous Marvel experience. Nolan North, for example, voices Deadpool, just like he did in Deadpool's solo game. Laura Bailey has played Black Widow in a bunch of games, including Square Enix's upcoming Avengers title. Brian Bloom has voiced Captain America in numerous cartoons and video games, just like he does here.

If you're a Spider-Man fan, it gets even better. Ultimate Alliance 3 may not share a continuity with last year's Marvel's Spider-Man, but it does share a voice cast. As in the PS4 exclusive, Yuri Lowenthal voices Ultimate Alliance 3's Spider-Man, William Salyers plays the villainous Doctor Octopus, and Miles Morales is once again brought to life by Nadji Jeter.

There's another Spidey-friendly actor in there too, although you may not be used to hearing him play a villain. In Ultimate Alliance 3, Electro is voiced by none other than Christopher Daniel Barnes, the actor who played Peter Parker in the popular '90s Spider-Man animated series, and later voiced Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 2099, the Superior Spider-Man, and Spyder-Knight in various games and cartoons.

The Crew returns

Most of the teams that you can put together for bonuses are pretty obvious. The X-Men team is comprised of mutants. The Back in Black team members are all characters who wear black. The Women of Marvel are all, well, women. You get the idea.

One team listing, however, is fairly obscure: The Crew. The Crew was created in 2003 by writer Christopher Priest, and focused on a group of heroes — all of whom were people of color under their masks — who came together to battle both urban crime and social problems like gentrification. It lasted a mere seven issues. The Crew was revived in 2017 by author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Yona Harvey, but even with superstars like Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, and Misty Knight on the team, it didn't take. Six issues after its debut, and The Crew was done. Again.

Those were both good and important books, and their early cancellation is a shame, so put Black Panther, Falcon, Luke Cage, and Storm on your team. Not only will you reunite the Crew for a quick reunion tour, but you'll boost your team's resistance stat, too. It's a win-win.

The Age of Ultron

The evil robot Ultron has a lot of history with the Avengers — he even headlined their second movie — and it's all on display in Ultimate Alliance 3's fourth level. After Ultron takes over Avengers Tower, it's up to you and your selected heroes to get it back.

During the fight, the Wasp (Janet van Dyne) will show up and join your roster. As Jan explains, she and Ultron are practically kin, although she says that Ultron is from "the side of the family that isn't invited to be in holiday photos any more." No wonder: in the comics, Ultron is the "child" of Hank Pym, who based Ultron's mechanical brain on his own. Pym is also the first Ant-Man (and Wasp's ex-husband), and his comics incarnation is probably most famous for hitting Jan in a fit of rage. You can see why they're no longer together.

Later, while rallying at a S.H.I.E.L.D. point, you'll meet Thor, who talks about Ultron and says, "We would have words with him." That's a callback to Kurt Busiek and George Perez's Ultron Unlimited arc in Avengers #19 through #22, which contains one of the coolest Avengers moments ever. Seriously, if you haven't read it, you really should.

The Superior Spider-Man ... er, Octopus

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 really wants you to know that Doctor Octopus is "superior." Seriously, the word pops up in reference to the not-so-good doctor at least three times. In Ultimate Alliance 3, every character gets a freeze-frame introduction that briefly summarizes who they are. Doctor Octopus' reads, "Metal arms. Superior intellect. Inferior ethics." The objective for the Doctor Octopus boss fight tells you to "prove superior in battle." His biography, which can be found in the "Report" section of Ultimate Alliance 3's gallery, notes that Otto Octavius often "claims his 'superiority' to every living being."

It's a lot, but there's a reason. In the comics, Doctor Octopus has spent some time as the Superior Spider-Man. It's a complicated story, but it goes a little like this: at one point, Otto was dying, so he switched minds with Peter Parker. Peter, in Octavius' body, passed away. Otto, now with super-powers, crowned himself the Superior Spider-Man and set out to be a better hero than Peter ever could be. 

Eventually, a small remnant of Peter's consciousness reasserted control and things went back to normal, although Octavius is currently webslinging again thanks to some artificial intelligence, a clone conspiracy, and a few other events. It's a whole thing. Don't worry about it.

Not-so-secret identities

Ultimate Alliance 3 barely has time to spotlight all 36 of the characters on its main roster, to say nothing of the myriad of sidekicks and iconic Marvel villains that appear in the game. As such, there's not any room for The Black Order to delve into its heroes' civilian identities. Bruce Banner never de-Hulks to share his scientific expertise. Spider-Man doesn't worry about paying rent or getting medication for Aunt May.

Still, the Avengers' personal lives are there. You just have to know what you're looking for. Ultimate Alliance 3 never explicitly says that Daredevil spends his days as Matt Murdock, blind attorney, but that doesn't stop him from yelling out catch-phrases like "Case closed!" and "I object!" during combat. The Wasp mentions that she sewed her own costume. That's not much of a surprise: when she's not fighting crime, Janet van Dyne is a fashion designer. Nightcrawler tells you to "prepare yourself for the greatest show on Earth," echoing Barnum & Bailey's iconic slogan and Nightcrawler's past as a circus performer.

It's a small detail, but it's nice to see Ultimate Alliance 3 put the "human" in superhuman. After all, the realistic, relatable characters are what make Marvel so special.

X-Men vs. Inhumans is canon

For most of Avengers: Ultimate Alliance, Beast is your go-to science guy. When there's something to be tested, analyzed, or experimented on, he's your X-Man. Still, it's a little surprising when Beast casually mentions that he has a private lab on the moon, where the Inhumans live.

Surprising, that is, unless you're all caught up on current Marvel continuity. Beast's moon-based laboratory is a holdover from the Inhumans vs. X-Men crossover event, which was published in 2016. In the story, a cloud of Terrigen Mist, the substance that unlocks the Inhumans' powers, is traveling across Earth. That's good for the Inhumans, but bad for the mutants, to whom the Mist is fatal. After the cloud claims Cyclops as one of its victims, the X-Men vow to destroy it, setting off a war between the two factions.

During the conflict, Beast switches sides, working with the Inhumans to find a cure for the mutants' Terrigen poisoning in hopes of bringing the fight to a peaceful conclusion. Apparently, the Inhumans liked working with Beast enough to keep his laboratory around. Thank goodness. With Thanos on the prowl, Marvel's heroes need every resource they can get.

Oh, Canada!

If Deadpool's around, the fourth wall is in danger. Breaking it is kind of Deadpool's whole gimmick. While Ultimate Alliance keeps the meta jokes to a minimum, Deadpool's snarky sense of humor is on full display in the game's "Records" section, a codex with info on every hero, villain, and major location in the game.

Every record is written by the Guardians of the Galaxy's Rocket Raccoon, and many of them are tinted by the trash panda's trademark snark. Spider-Man's entry, for example, doesn't have much to say about Spidey's origin story, because Rocket spends the entire time complaining about how much Spider-Man talks. Deadpool takes things even further. The Merc with a Mouth actually hacks into Rocket's record and provides his own commentary, including the fact that he's "fluent in Canadian."

That's not a bad joke on its own, but it takes a few more layers when you add Deadpool's movies into the mix. Like Deadpool, actor Ryan Reynolds, who plays Deadpool on-screen, hails from Canada, and their shared Canadian ancestry has become a running gag on social media.

Now you're playing with powers

Each character in Ultimate Alliance 3 has four special abilities, plus a devastating Extreme Attack that can decimate foes. You would think that those would be a great place to hide Easter eggs, but for the most part, the names are pretty boring. Psylocke's "Psychic Knife" is simply what she calls one of her go-to mutant abilities. Captain America's "Shield Dash" is exactly what it sounds like.

Still, if you look carefully, you can find a few gems. Black Panther has a move called "Bast's Fury." In the comics, Bast is the panther god worshipped by T'Challa's tribe. Magneto, who is himself a hidden character, has a power called "Fatal Attractions." Surprise! Fatal Attractions also happens to be the title of the 1993 X-Men story in which Magneto uses his abilities to rip the adamantium out of Wolverine's body.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Team Ninja is a fan of '90s X-Men. Other than Storm, all of Ultimate Alliance 3's mutants are sporting their Jim Lee-designed '90s costumes, which also appeared on X-Men: The Animated Series. Still, Fatal Attractions is gruesome even by X-Men standards. Thanks for making us relive the horror, Team Ninja. Thanks a lot.

A very British ninja

The X-Men's Psylocke doesn't have many lines in Ultimate Alliance 3, but if you listen carefully when she speaks, you might notice that she has a slight British lilt. Given that Psylocke is a telepathic Asian ninja, that might seem like it's a mistake. It's not. Psylocke's origin is remarkably convoluted, and her accent proves that Team Ninja did its homework.

The short version of Psylocke's story goes something like this: in the beginning, Betsy Braddock was a white, British pilot with psychic abilities, who also happened to be the twin sister of the UK's premiere superhero, Captain Britain. After a series of adventures, Betsy ended up in the Mojoverse, where she was rescued by the New Mutants. Betsy, now known as Psylocke, learned that she was a mutant herself and joined the X-Men.

While Psylocke was with the X-Men, she was captured by a crime lord named Mats'uo Tsurayaba, who swapped Psylocke's consciousness with that of his Asian lover, Kwannon. Pyslocke's mind lived in Kwannon's body, Kwannon's lived in Betsy's, and it's been that way ever since. Yeah, it's remarkably problematic, and there are hints that Marvel might undo the body-swap fairly soon. For now, however, that's the entire, bizarre story.

The mysterious ISO-8

If you haven't noticed, almost every character, location, or object in Ultimate Alliance 3 has a link to the comics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or both. So, what's the story behind ISO-8, the crystalline substance that you can strap to your characters for some major stat boosts?

Well, surprise! Isotope-8 doesn't appear in Marvel's comics, its television shows, or its movies at all. It comes from a Facebook game, of all things. Marvel: Avengers Alliance was a turn-based RPG that, like Ultimate Alliance 3, was all about collecting and upgrading your favorite Marvel heroes. Naturally, the game had a fair share of microtransactions, too. In canon, nobody knows where Isotope-8 comes from, but it's pretty popular with heroes and villains alike. Power-enhancing abilities will do that.

ISO-8 went on to become a mainstay in almost all of Marvel's mobile games, including popular titles like Marvel Future Fight. If you recognized ISO-8, it's probably from one of those — as far as we can tell, Ultimate Alliance 3 marks the substance's first appearance on a console.