By Tim Stevens
From the case files of Marvel.com…
In light of recent events, it has become necessary to reopen the file on the prison break at Ryker's Island's super maximum security prison, known colloquially as The Raft. This update should be filed under the call name NEW AVENGERS #42, revisions provided by Brian Michael Bendis and Jim Cheung.
To begin with, we must review what we already know and what conclusions this initially led us to.
First, on the evening in question, New York experienced a city wide blackout caused by super criminal Max Dillon (Electro). Following this, Electro also caused an explosion at the Raft. Between these two events, several highly dangerous criminals were allowed the possibility of escape.
Those already on the scene included Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) working as a S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison; Luke Cage (formerly Power Man) providing bodyguard services to two attorneys from the New York law firm Nelson & Murdock; Robert Reynolds (The Sentry), incorrectly imprisoned for the death of his wife who has subsequently been found to be quite alive and well; and a well armed battalion of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
Steve Rogers (Captain America), Classified
(Spider-Man), and Tony Stark followed in short order having all, individually, heard the explosion and headed in its direction to provide aid. These six super humans would eventually be amongst those on the team referred to as the "New Avengers."
In the subsequent struggle, approximately half of the super criminals were safely contained and returned to their cells. The exact number of escapees has proven difficult to nail down, but estimates place it between 42 and 45 prisoners.
Electro attempted to take flight, but first stopped in Boston to await a wire transfer and convince his significant other to come with him. The New Avengers arrived on scene and apprehended him. He refused to reveal who hired him for the prison break or why under interrogation by both the Avengers and local law enforcement.
However, Spider-Woman used the promise of "awesome" Apple Crumb Cake donuts to get the prisoners who did not escape to reveal Electro's goal: the retrieval of Karl Lykos (Sauron).
This information led Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Cage, and Spider-Woman to the Savage Land, Sauron's last known base of operations. There they encountered Wolverine who had come to the same conclusion independently due to a tip from reformed super criminal _____ Hudak (formerly the Scorcher). Hudak had been contacted by the Savage Land mutate Brainchild and offered the prison break job, but refused. Subsequent investigation of the wire transfer Electro received confirmed Brainchild as the party who hired him.
These above facts seem to indicate a fairly open and shut case. Electro helped Sauron to escape and provided a suitable amount of distraction in the form of a blackout and a full scale prison break to hide it. Brainchild bankrolled the operation to return Sauron from prison to his native country.
However, testimonies offered then and since complicate matters consistently.
For instance, while the costumed vigilantes were held prisoner by Brainchild, Sauron made reference to a mysterious "them" that apparently forced him into servitude and then arranged to have him imprisoned when he resisted a job. He did not reveal who the "they" in question were at the time and has subsequently proven to be uncooperative on this and any other matter.
Additionally, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s apparent presence in the Savage Land has yet to be fully explained. While the Avengers attempted to break free of Brainchild and re-secure Sauron, a seemingly rogue cadre of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents led by Yelena Belova
(Black Widow II) engaged all parties. Belova gave the kill order to her subordinates but some hesitation combined with the Avengers' superior teamwork prevented the order from being fulfilled.
This would be troubling enough on its own if the Avengers did not subsequently stumble upon a forced labor camp also run by those in S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms. The goal of the camp clearly involved the mining of Vibranium. The decimation of the site by a Helicarrier under the command of then-S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill makes it impossible to draw specific conclusions. Weapons would seem the obvious answer, but barring further evidence it is not one that can be fully endorsed. For her part, former Director Hill denies S.H.I.E.L.D.'s involvement in the work camp.
It only recently came to our attention that just prior to its destruction, Savage Land denizens Ka-Zar and Shanna also discovered the forced Vibranium mining. While infiltrating the camp, Shanna killed a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who reverted to Skrull form. Later, after being discovered attempting to infiltrate the site, Shanna opened fire on the apparent S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, revealing them all to be Skrulls.
#42 cover by
Unrelated to the Skrull revelation but relevant to the status of "rogue" S.H.I.E.L.D. agents: Spider-Woman's various allegiances. It has been confirmed that she spied on S.H.I.E.L.D. for Hydra and vice versa. She claims Nick Fury had awareness of the situation and gave his blessing for her to continue doing this, however, no one has been able to confirm this with Fury himself. Given that Spider-Woman first identified Black Widow's S.H.I.E.L.D. team as mutinous, one must view that conclusion skeptically.
Given this newly available information and the current state of Human-Skrull relations, the importance of revisiting the events and reevaluating the conclusions drawn cannot be overstated. Given the unlikely level of coincidence that seemed to have enveloped everything concerning it, it seems highly probable that our initial tidy conclusions did not give us a full appreciation of all the machinations involved.
Find out the truth behind the Raft breakout on June 25 in NEW AVENGERS #42. And go back to the beginning with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.