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Marvel’s Spider-Man: Gang War ending explained

Who lived, who died, and who is in control of Marvel’s criminal underworld?

Amazing Spider-Man #44 cover cropped
Image credit: Marvel

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Marvel’s 'Gang War' event has come to a close. After three months of intense battles, betrayals, plot twists, and underworld intrigue, the crossover storyline has reached its epic conclusion. It all began in Amazing Spider-Man #31 when the wedding of Janice Lincoln and Randy Robertson became ground zero for a mafia civil war. Everyone from Madame Masque, Rose, Kingpin, Beetle, Tombstone, Hobgoblin, and many others fought for territory as alliances were made, partnerships ended in betrayal, and blood was shed.

Now Amazing Spider-Man #44 (written by Zeb Wells and pencilled by John Romita Jr.) has closed the book on the gangland skirmish. Who lived, who died, and who is in control of Marvel’s criminal underworld? Let’s dive in.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Amazing Spider-Man #44!

How did Gang War end?

The Central Park Gang War battle winds down
Image credit: Marvel

After countless battles, and some mobster eliminations, Madame Masque and Beetle were the last leaders standing. The rest of the forces had either fallen, gotten arrested, or agreed to join forces with either of them. This led to a big rumble in Central Park with an army of supervillains, A.I.M. soldiers, and random mafia soldiers. Spider-Man and various other Marvel heroes showed up, hoping to quash the carnage.

During the battle, Tombstone realized how far his daughter Janice (the Beetle) had fallen. Tombstone knew his daughter was on track to win the Gang War, and control New York’s underworld. Fearing the dark path his daughter was taking, Tombstone knocked her out, taking her off the metaphorical chessboard.

This is where things got chaotic. Prior to Beetle’s removal, her Syndicate was happy to step back and let Spider-Man and the heroes take on Madame Masque’s forces. Once the Beetle was knocked out, Tombstone took control of her Syndicate and turned on the heroes. Now Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Daredevil, and a host of others were caught in the crossfire, fighting off two separate factions of criminals.

In the end, Spider-Man was able to defeat Madame Masque’s forces, ending the Gang War. This left Tombstone as the last mob boss standing. Tombstone seized control of Beetle’s Syndicate and promoted White Rabbit to his second in command. He’s now the leader of New York City’s underworld. In case there was any doubt, the final page of the comic features an updated map of New York City’s gang territories. Whereas prior issues had the names of various criminals in various districts, Tombstone’s name now covers the entire map.

(To be fair, this outcome was heavily hinted at in Marvel’s 2023 Timeless special)

Who died in Gang War?

Spider-Man battles Madame Masque
Image credit: Marvel

There were no major character deaths in the Gang War conclusion. Some minor criminals have been killed over the course of the storyline, and in some of the tie-in issues, but all the big-name heroes and villains survived. At one point it looked like Count Nefaria and Silvermaine had been killed, but that was just a fake-out. For a time, it looked like Randy Robertson might become a casualty, but the young activist awoke from his coma during the final act of the book.

Of course, there is some ambiguity over Beetle’s fate…

What happened to Beetle?

Tombstone and White Rabbit
Image credit: Marvel

The Beetle mysteriously disappeared during the final act of the storyline. When we last saw Janice Lincoln in Amazing Spider-Man #43, her father had knocked her out. When the action resumes in Amazing Spider-Man #44, we don’t see her body anywhere on the battlefield. Her former teammate White Rabbit asks Tombstone about her whereabouts, but the mob boss is evasive. “I told you. We had a disagreement. She left.”

In many ways, Gang War was Janice’s storyline. The opening shots of the Gang War were fired at her wedding to Randy Robertson. In fact, Beetle nearly became the leader of New York City’s criminal underworld.

Tombstone’s cagey response makes me wonder if there is more to the story. Did something else happen with Tombstone and Beetle after he knocked her out? While her fate is ambiguous, I doubt that she’s dead. Perhaps she’s secretly working with Tombstone, or more likely, lying low and preparing a revenge scheme against her father.

How does Gang War change the Marvel Universe?

Peter Parker visits Randy Robertson in the hospital
Image credit: Marvel

The end of Gang War brought some good news for Marvel’s New York-based heroes. Outraged by the chaos in their city, New York’s citizens took to the streets and demanded the city council repeal Fisk’s Law.

(If you’re not familiar, Fisk’s Law was a law that prohibited unsanctioned vigilante activity in New York City)

The city council caved, and now Spider-Man and his fellow heroes can operate in New York City without fear of arrest. Fisk’s Law was established when Kingpin was mayor during the Devil’s Reign storyline. If you’re a Marvel reader who isn’t familiar with Fisk’s Law, it’s not your fault. Marvel was never consistent about it in the first place.

For example, the law prohibits vigilantes like Spider-Man from operating. But what about Captain America or other Avengers? Does it just apply to street level heroes? Some titles heavily referenced Fisk’s Law, such as Luke Cage: Gang War, where current mayor Luke Cage tried to save his city while navigating the rules of a law that he didn’t have the power to repeal.

In contrast, other street level titles like Daredevil have ignored the law. Throughout Marvel’s publishing line, we’ve seen countless heroes fight crime in New York City month after month, unconcerned with Fisk’s Law. Well, it’s repealed now anyway, so they can remain unconcerned.

The other major change is Tombstone leading the criminal underworld. White Rabbit reminds him that some of his factions (and potential rivals) might resent him for allying with Spider-Man. Tombstone has a plan for that – kill Spider-Man in front of the entire city.

What’s next for Spider-Man?

Amazing Spider-Man #45 cover
Image credit: Marvel

According to Spider-Editor Nick Lowe, the conclusion of Gang War marks the end of Phase Two of Zeb Wells’ Amazing Spider-Man run. Writing in the letters page, Lowe gave readers a hint at what’s in store for Peter and the gang in Phase Three.

“We’ve got a couple of guests artists joining us while Johnny (Romita Jr.) and Ed (McGuinness) bank up future issues. Stormbreaker Carmen Carnero is joining Zeb for a two-parter in #45-46, picking up on the Aunt Anna storyline (have you been reading X-Men lately?) and bringing Electro back into the spotlight. Then Todd Nauck (who broke sales records with Zeb on the Barack Obama story) joins us for #47-48 where Chasm and Hallows’ Eve return to ASM and we pick up a few long-bubbling subplots. Then JRJR is back for our Blood Hunt tie-in issue (ASM #49) before Ed McGuinness returns for a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE arc that starts with #50!!! I’ve already said too much.”

It looks like Spidey has a big year ahead. This also indicates that Wells has plans for the book beyond issue 50. Some Popverse readers might recall our 2023 interview with Zeb Wells, where he speculated his run would end “a little past issue 50.”

What’s the big surprise for Amazing Spider-Man #50? Whatever it is, Popverse will be here to give you the lowdown.

An advance review copy of Amazing Spider-Man #44 was provided ahead of release by Marvel.

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About the Author
Joshua Lapin-Bertone avatar

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Contributing writer

Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.