There never seems to be a lack of foes for Marvel’s superheroes to square off against. As soon as one bad guy is put down, another pops up to take his or her place. But what happens to the villains the heroes do manage to defeat and put away? Where do they go?
Well, there are a large number of prisons in Marvel comics, but the Raft may be the most notorious among them. Similar to Arkham Asylum in DC comics, the Raft is a maximum-security prison located near Ryker’s Island off the coast of New York that is specifically designed to hold the most dangerous super-powered criminals.
The Raft’s Reputation and History in Marvel Comics
First appearing in Alias Vol. 1, No. 26, the Raft is revealed to Jessica Jones as the prison holding Zebediah Killgrave a.k.a. the Purple Man. Killgrave is among the more notable villains to be locked away in the Raft, but he’s far from the most powerful to be detained in this suped-up prison.
Shortly after its introduction, the Raft was renovated and upgraded with cutting-edge technology. A bio-energy dampening field that suppressed superpowers was installed to cover the facility. The waters surrounding the island on which the Raft was located were filled with a special kind of jellyfish that held a very powerful nerve toxin. A forcefield sealed off the courtyard and thirty ray guns linked to a targeting computer were mounted around the area. Additionally, guards were equipped with specialty light armor and carried electroshock weapons that could only be operated by a specific guard.
Prisoners held in the Raft are only allowed one hour per day outside of solitary confinement. This practice is meant to limit any potential problems, and the strongest inmates are all equipped with neural inhibitors to further suppress their powers. Despite the precautions in place, breakouts at the Raft happen several times over the years. Most of these breakouts are orchestrated by those outside of The Raft’s walls, but there are some occasions where those imprisoned manage to get themselves free.
The United States’ Thunderbolts program used the Raft as its headquarters and would recruit some of those housed within the facility to join the crime-fighting team in exchange for a reduced sentence. Spider-Man is also closely associated with the Raft. Given its proximity to New York, the Raft is filled with many of Spider-Man’s primary enemies, and he’s usually the first target for the villains who break out.
Some of the top supervillains to be held at the Raft include Carnage, Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, Juggernaut, The Lizard, Vulture, Tombstone, Crossbones and Green Goblin.
Notable Appearances of the Raft in the MCU
The most recent reference to the Raft in the MCU came in episode five of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier when Ayo tells Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier that the Dora Milaje were taking Baron Zemo to the prison, “where he will live out his days.”
It’s somewhat fitting that Zemo should be heading there, because his plot to split the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War played a role in a few notable heroes getting locked up in the Raft. Following the Avengers’ intra-squad fight at an airport that results in James Rhodes/War Machine’s fall and waist-down paralysis, Sam Wilson/Falcon, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Clint Barton/Hawkeye and Scott Lang/Ant-Man are taken into custody by Tony Stark/Iron Man’s team.
Stark later visits the Raft, where he is greeted by General Thunderbolt Ross, and has a discussion with Barton, telling him that he was unaware they would be imprisoned in the maximum-security facility he believed was for “maniacs.” It is also discovered that the MCU version of the Raft is entirely submersible in water, another layer of security.
After Stark’s climactic battle with Steve Rogers/Captain America at the conclusion of Captain America: Civil War, he learns that there has been a breach at the Raft. The breach was caused by Rogers, who broke into the prison to free his fellow heroes, beginning his journey as a fugitive.
The Raft has also played a role in Marvel’s small-screen projects. In the second season of Jessica Jones, the Raft is a consistent presence and viewed as the worst place for a person to be imprisoned.
With Zemo heading towards some time alone in the Raft, the prison continues to be mentioned in the MCU. Given its comics reputation and practical applicability on-screen, it’s highly likely that the facility will continue to play a role moving forward.