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Ways Spider-Man can kill Thanos

When Avengers: Endgame hits theaters, we're finally going to see what happens when Earth's Mightiest Heroes take on their deadliest enemy: Thanos. The Mad Titan has, after all, killed half of the sentient life in the universe, murdering countless trillions with a single snap of his fingers, so it's a good thing that the good guys have a roster stacked with absolute powerhouses. We've got the never-say-die willpower and physical perfection of Captain America, the devastating cosmic power of Captain Marvel, the unmatched strength of the Incredible Hulk, and the technological supremacy of Iron Man.

Oh, and there's also Peter Parker, a teenager who recently got beaten up by his prom date's dad while he was wearing sweatpants. Don't count the spectacular Spider-Man out just yet, though. While he might seem like he's out of his league when it comes to cosmic conflagrations like the one we're about to see in Endgame, Spidey has a knack for pulling off the impossible, and might just be the one who takes out Thanos.

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Dust to dust

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe stands right now, the biggest obstacle standing between Peter Parker and a victory over Thanos actually has nothing to do with Peter's young age or lack of experience in the superhero game. The more pressing problem is, you know, the fact that Peter is currently a handful of dust orbiting Saturn. That said, this is a superhero story, and we all know that death in that genre is more of a temporary inconvenience than the actual end of anything.

We already know that Peter's going to be back in action for Spider-Man: Far from Home, and it stands to reason that plenty of other dusted heroes (like, say, anyone whose first starring film was nominated for Best Picture and took home three Oscars) will be returning along with him. The only real question is whether that's going to come as the result of the heroes defeating Thanos, or if it's the event that turns the tide in their favor.

If it's the latter, then seeing all of those temporarily dead Avengers returning to life in one glorious charge could be the big fist-pumping moment that balances out Infinity War's monumental downer of an ending… and with that much action, it might just give Spider-Man the chance to pull off the biggest upset in MCU history.

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His strength is… strength

A thing that many fans often overlook about Spider-Man is that canonically speaking, he's ridiculously strong. It's less apparent when he's in a superhero universe where almost all of the characters we see can juggle tractors pretty much by default, but it always bears repeating. The proportionate strength of a spider is nothing to sneeze at.

As a rule of thumb, the Spider-Man of the comics is usually shown to be able to lift about 25 tons or so. That might not sound like much, but consider that 50,000 pounds is roughly equivalent to 14 Toyota Camrys. Or 5,882 Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature. That's 200,000 Quarter Pounders with Cheese, which is a whole lot of beef by anyone's measure!

Point being, he might not be a gigantic slab of muscle like the MCU's various chiseled Chrises, but he's every bit as capable of bicep-curling a helicopter as Captain America. Thanos might be able to look at Thor or the Hulk and know that he's about to take on a physical powerhouse, but this weird little teenager? Considering that his previous encounters with Spider-Man have involved having to deal with the much more pressing threat of the Sorcerer Supreme and having his mind briefly possessed by Mantis, there's no reason for Thanos to expect anything from Peter Parker. The element of surprise can be very effective, especially if Peter uses it to jack Thanos's wrinkly purple jaw New York style.

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His moral strength… is also strength

There's one element of Spider-Man's strength, though, that has very little to do with the stats that are laid out in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or represented by an improbable number of pianos. When you get right down to it, Spider-Man is exactly as strong as the story needs him to be.

You can say the same thing about every superhero, of course, but with Spider-Man, it's kind of his thing. The defining image of Spider-Man, and one that's been repeated over and over for the past six decades, is the shot of him struggling under the rubble of a collapsed building and eventually lifting it to free himself. It first appeared way back in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's Amazing Spider-Man #33, but it's been recreated several times in the years since — including in the MCU. The scene of Peter struggling under tons of concrete shows that the movie version has the same quality as his comic book counterpart.

The one thing that unites all those versions of this idea together is that every time, Peter's fighting on behalf of someone else. In the original version, it was Aunt May, who was in the hospital wasting away from a disease that could only be cured if Spider-Man delivered a serum to her doctors. In Homecoming, it was a worry that the Vulture would put more super-weapons out on the streets, endangering the entire city. As we've already seen from Infinity War, the stakes in Endgame are galactic murder on a scale that we can barely imagine. If Peter Parker gets a little bit stronger when he's fighting to save people, what could possibly pump him up more than the literal fate of the universe?

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But is he strong enough to carry the franchise?

It's no secret that the MCU is likely heading for big changes in the wake of Endgame — and not the kind that are caused by the Infinity Stones, unless there's a secret seventh one out there that controls film casting.

Rumors have been swirling for quite a while that Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, who play Iron Man and Captain America, respectively, have been planning to leave their roles for quite some time. Evans even did an interview in 2018 where he said that "you want to get off the train before they push you off," and that Endgame will mark the end of his tenure as Steve Rogers. That leaves the Marvel movies without two of their most prominent characters. That might not be that big a deal, though, at least from a storytelling standpoint. There's no better way for a superhero to go out than with a grand heroic sacrifice, which is exactly the kind of moment that a movie like Endgame almost requires.

In terms of character, there are already replacements waiting in the wings. In the comics, Jim Rhodes (played in the films by Don Cheadle) replaced Tony Stark as Iron Man back in the '70s, and both Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes (Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan) have taken the Captain America identity, too. Any of those actors would do well in those roles. That raises a question, though: if Evans and Downey really are gone, then who's going to step up and be the kind of character who could carry a film like Civil War?

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The guy on the checks

With all that said, there's no shortage of characters who could lead the MCU into its next phase. The easy answer is Chris Hemsworth's Thor, the third of the "Big Three" Avengers, and a character that people love more than ever thanks to the fun of Ragnarok. Brie Larson's Captain Marvel is already setting up the fan-favorite character as a huge deal, and someone who — in-universe, at least — has a history that goes back decades. Black Panther is maybe the most obvious choice, with a massively profitable and award-winning movie that's giving the franchise every reason to put Chadwick Boseman in the spotlight and keep him there as long as possible. T'Challa's even the current chairman of the Avengers in the comics.

At the same time, there's no character who's identified with the Marvel Universe more than Spider-Man, to the point of being the guy who used to be on their stationery and paychecks. His popularity as a solo character has always been equal to (or greater than) prominent Marvel books like Avengers and X-Men, and Into the Spider-Verse showed that audiences are more than ready to get as much Spider-Man (and Spider-Ham, and Spider-Gwen) as they can.

Tom Holland's MCU version of the character has everything people love about those characters: the tech smarts of Iron Man, the moral center of Captain America, and the hard luck comedy of Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy. The only thing he needs if he's going to really be at the top is the kind of hard-fought, world-saving victory like we've seen from the big names before. They don't come harder-fighting or bigger than Thanos, so hey. Why not?

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Would he actually do it, though?

It's clear from the events of Infinity War that nothing short of death is going to stop Thanos from keeping the universe exactly the way he remade it — with a lot less people and a lot more grieving. If that's really what it's going to take, then whoever stops him is going to have to be willing to kill him to do it, and while that might not be too much of a stretch for a military soldier like Captain America, a seasoned warrior like Thor, or even a ruthless pragmatist like Iron Man, could Peter Parker really go through with it?

In the comics, Spider-Man has a strict policy against killing, which he's adhered to strictly with the exception of one tragic, accidental incident. It's part of his nature, the same idea of using his power responsibly that's at the core of everything he does. With that in mind, it's hard to imagine that he'd be willing to pull the metaphorical trigger on anyone, even a mad god with a reality-warping mitten. There are certainly ways to justify it, but even if they did, would audiences want to see it?

The MCU's Spider-Man is still a kid who lives with his aunt and is worried about midterms at high school. Building a movie to a scene where that guy actually kills someone, no matter how justified it is, would be the kind of downer that would make Infinity War's ending look like It's a Wonderful Life. Then again…

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Spider-Man no more?

The trailer for Spider-Man: Far from Home had a lot of interesting pieces, from the arrival of Mysterio — a guy who's about as far from a cosmic titan as you can get — to the sight of Spidey swinging around Europe on a mission for Nick Fury. One of the most interesting parts, though, was the scene in which Peter Parker decided to leave his costume at home.

It's nearly impossible to see that and not think about Stan Lee and John Romita's classic "Spider-Man No More" story, in which Peter (temporarily) gives up on his web-headed alter-ego. If Far from Home actually does show Peter wanting to get some distance away from his Spider-Man identity, then we have to ask: why?

In the comic, it's as simple as the Daily Bugle running one too many negative stories, but it's easy to imagine that a decision like that in the MCU would come as a direct result of the events of Infinity War and Endgame. It doesn't really have to be anything new — being turned to crumbs by a super-jacked version of the Grimace is enough to make anyone want a vacation — but maybe he's still dealing with what he had to do to stop Thanos? That's a pretty big maybe, though (especially since we also see him swinging around New York in the trailer), and if anyone can figure out how to stop Thanos without killing him, it's Peter Parker.

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A different kind of genius

We've talked a lot about Spider-Man's strength, but maybe we're going about this all wrong. Physical strength is great, but it might not be the answer when it comes to Thanos. We've already seen him take down the Hulk (with the aid of the Power Gem) and withstand a vicious blow from Thor (who should've gone for the head), and those are by far the two strongest Avengers. If they couldn't get it done with raw power, then maybe this is a problem the good guys are going to have to think their way out of.

Good thing Spider-Man's a genius. Again, this is a quality that's often overshadowed by the other heroes around him, who form a pretty impressive braintrust themselves. Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, T'Challa, and Shuri are all undeniably brilliant, with staggering achievements in building high-tech armor, vibranium-powered gadgets, and even creating artificial life in the form of the Vision. Those are slightly more impressive than Spidey's scientific accomplishments, which basically amount to figuring out how to shoot giant sticky spider-webs at guys with names like "The Shocker."

But that's also what makes Spidey so interesting when it comes to coming up with plans. Unlike the other Marvel Universe super-scientists, he's never had the luxury of a state-of-the-art lab and millions of dollars in resources. He's used to working with what he has, often making the best of a desperate situation and cobbling something together that lasts just long enough to get a single job done. In short, he's a completely different kind of genius than we've seen before, and one who is used to approaching his problems in a very different way than a guy like Tony Stark, who once invented a new element in his garage. There's no situation more desperate than the one the Avengers are in now, and that's when Spidey's mind always works its most impressive magic.

Besides, he's done it before.

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Yes, he's done it before

Believe it or not, Spider-Man has actually gone toe-to-toe with Thanos before and beaten him, although admittedly, it didn't happen in the core Marvel Universe. Instead, it happened in The Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet, a 2010 retelling of the original Infinity Gauntlet story aimed at the YA crowd.

Needless to say, Spider-Man fared a lot better in this version of the story than he did in the original 1991 Infinity Gauntlet comic, where he was bludgeoned to death with a rock by a lady version of Thanos called Terraxia. This time around, the climactic battle saw Thanos losing control of the Infinity Gauntlet thanks to Doctor Doom, and then being attacked by the combined might of the Hulk, Wolverine, and Ms. Marvel as he tried to put it back on. In that split second, with Thanos otherwise occupied, Spidey snagged the gauntlet with a single thwip of his web-shooters and put it on himself, realizing that he could fix everything by rewriting time so that Thanos had never found the gems — which also meant nobody remembered that he was the one who saved the universe.

Sure, it's not strict Marvel Universe canon, but neither are the movies. A precedent is a precedent, and it's not like they're bringing back the helicopter with "THANOS" written on it that the Mad Titan had back in Spidey Super Stories in 1978. If Spidey's going to beat Thanos, web-shooters probably aren't going to cut it on their own. He's going to have to turn his own weapon against Thanos, which might just be the smartest way — the only way — for Spider-Man to be the one who ends that battle.