A secret location in the Rocky Mountain range in Colorado
Various designers and builders, including Forge
Points of Interest
Separate security towers and administration building; main citadel (security staging areas, administrative offices); self-contained cells in subterranean levels, each cell has reconfigurable walls for differentiated accomodation; isolation pit/cells; self-contained nuclear power facility
Avengers Annual #15 (1986)
Several years ago, the United States tried to solve the problem of incarcerating superhuman criminals by creating the maximum security prison termed “the Vault.” It had many advantages over more conventional prisons, as it contained multiple subterranean levels, was constructed from near-impervious materials such as either AdamantiumAdamantium or omnium steel, and used various power-dampening devices. An additional factor in the Vault’s early success was the fact that its location, deep within the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, was kept top secret from all but the most necessary personnel and government officials.
All 35 of the Vault’s guards wore Guardsman armor, modeled after a design by Tony Stark. This included the head of security, Michael O’Brien, whose brother was the original Guardsman before the Vault’s creation, and a six-man “Retriever” squad, who were responsible for the transporting of prisoners. Other personnel included the original warden, Howard G. Hardman, and the head of the in-house science team, Dr. Henri Sorel. The science/medical team was a three-man department responsible for screening prisoners when they arrived in order to determine if any specialized containment was necessary.
The first superhumans to be interred at the Vault were not criminals at all, but the mighty Avengers. Just before the Vault’s official opening, the Avengers were framed for treason by a mentally-unbalanced Quicksilver, and Freedom Force, acting on behalf of the U.S. government, remanded both the Avengers and their West Coast contingent to custody. The team was aided by Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), who turned against her teammates in Freedom Force so that the Avengers could free themselves and clear their name.
In the beginning, the Vault lived up to its expectations, becoming an effective internment for superhuman criminals. Most villains feared the Vault’s reputation as an “inescapable” prison, partly because it was so shrouded in secret. However, many would attempt to break out of the Vault, particularly Venom. His most notable attempted break-out occurred during the tenure of the warden Truman Marsh. Marsh had instituted a number of hard-line policies against the inmates, and Venom was able to recruit a veritable army in hopes of escaping. However, Marsh clamped down on the entire facility, setting a bomb to detonate rather than allow any to escape. The Avengers and Freedom Force combined their efforts to break into the prison, subdue the inmates, and defuse the bomb. Unfortunately, Marsh was killed by Venom in the process.
The first truly successful breakout was ironically made possible by Tony Stark himself. As Iron Man, Stark was hunting down any pieces of his own technology that were stolen and incorporated in various high-tech armors around the globe, and some of this technology had ended up in the Guardsmen suits. Stripped of their efficacy, the Guardsmen could not contain the resulting prison break, although Captain America helped return most of the escaping criminals. Soon after, the god Loki influenced a breakout as part of his machinations to have villains of all sorts attack various heroes en masse, a conspiracy that would have taken out the Avengers. Although many inmates escaped, the majority of villains were held back by the efforts of Hawkeye (Clint Barton) and Iron Man.
One notable prisoner was Justice (Vance Astrovik), who was interred in the Vault after being found guilty in the inadvertent death of his father. Astrovik served as a model prisoner, often sparring with the Guardsmen in training sessions and, at one point, helping to avoid another breakout, and he was eventually released.
The Vault was not to last, however. Despite years of successful internment of a menagerie of superhumans, two breakouts in rapid succession (one by the Masters of Evil, staged to help their early public appearance as the Thunderbolts and to recruit Moonstone (Karla Sofen); the other by the U-Foes on behalf of the Master of the World) helped to convince the government that the Vault was no longer a viable alternative to the containment of superhuman prisoners. The Vault was never rebuilt after its destruction by the U-Foes.
Some of the superhumans imprisoned at the Vault during its operation include: Armadillo, Atlas (Erik Josten as Goliath), Baroness Zemo, Bullet, Controller, Electro (Maxwell Dillon), Frenzy (Joanna Cargill), Gorilla Man (Arthur Nagan), Grey Gargoyle, Griffin, Hydro-Man, Ironclad, Justice (Vance Astrovik), Klaw, Mandrill, Mentallo, MODAM, Moonstone (Karla Sofen), Mister Hyde, Nefarius, Nekra, Orka, Piledriver (Brian Calusky), Powderkeg, Radioactive Man (Chen Lu), Rhino (Aleksei Sytsevich), Scarecrow (Ebenezer Laughton), Speed Demon, Terraformer, Thunderball, Titania (Mary MacPherran), Vapor, Vector, Venom (Eddie Brock), Vermin, Wizard, Wrecker (Dirk Garthwaite), Yetrigar, X-Ray (James Darnell)