While "Worms" was scripted by Tales editor Steve Murphy, he co-plotted it with Rick Remender, who also penciled the story (with John Beatty providing thick, generous inks to those pencils). In 2014, chances are that a lot of comics readers know Rememnder only as a comics writer, given his various high-profile works for Marvel, including The Punisher, Uncanny X-Force, Captain America, Uncanny Avengers and the publisher's next big crossover/event series, Axis.
But here he is co-plotting a really rather minor story for a relatively little book in 2004, and providing the artwork for it.
The “Let me tell you a story” fronstpieces for the two issues are drawn by Eric Talbot and Scott Cohn, and feature a stitched-up Raphael with monster-fighting gear and a trying-to-outswim-a-shark Michelangelo, respectively. The story is set at the very end of “Return To New York,” with Rememnder and Beatty re-drawing the panel where Leonardo beheads “The Shredder” and the Turtles then burn his corpse on a raft pushed out into the river.
Meanwhile, an unseen Foot mystic narrates:
I personally try not to think about the way the Turtles must smell—"the stench of human waste that clings to them like rancid yolk"—but yeah, spending the first decade and a half of their lives in the sewers of New York, they’ve gotta have a pretty terrible smell soaked into their bandanas and weapons and skins. Is there a secret ninja technique that allows a ninja to make his scent invisible as they sneak around? Because no matter how perfect they might be fading away, into the night, surely you would be able to smell them coming and going, right?
At the edge of the river, this mystic casts a spell to return the worms to life…sort of. Saki’s severed head is dragged through the black water by the dozen or so worms that emerge from his dead, open mouth. Until a shark eats it. And, at some point, the shark must have had some octopus. Because, another spell and another week later, The Shredder returns again...sort of.
Which is probably as good a time as any to ask: What the hell are the Turtles and Splinter even doing in the sewers of New York a week after their final battle with The Shredder and The Foot?
Splinter didn’t accompany them during their “Return To New York,” but stayed behind with Casey and April at the farmhouse. And, when we next saw the Turtles, it was...okay, well it was a few issues of Mark Martin's crazy stories, seemingly set before the events of #10 or "Return," but after that, in Rick Veitch's "The River" and so on, they’ve returned to the countryside. According to Murphy and Remender’s story, they followed their battle with “Shredder” and the Foot by returning to their old sewer lair to watch The Simpsons, and then hung around for a week, at some point being joined by Splinter...?
Mikey manages to find a spell in one of Splinter’s mystical books, summons a four-armed monkey god thing, and this being restores their personalities, teleporting the quartet to where the Foot mystic and the Shredder monster are, the rooftop of a factory on the edge of the river under a huge full moon—good place for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle battle.
Death seems to take for The Shredder worms this time around, while the mystic is transformed into a half-human, half-shark creature, “A new form of hate.”
Not the best story, and the wonky continuity doesn’t help—particularly because this is a story premised on being built atop existing TMNT continuity—but it was a real pleasure seeing Remender and Beatty’s art applied to characters so often drawn by so many different artists (Like Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are characters I enjoy seeing drawn over and over by different artists, just to see the choices they make, and how truly flexible and fluid the initial designs have proven over the decades).
Both of these issues feature back-up stories as well. The back-up in #3 is by German writer Peter Liehr and German artist Peter Schaaff. Entitled simply “Green,” it’s a five-page, nothing-much of a story, in which narration boxes semi-meditate on the meaning of the title word as it applies to the goings-on, which are a fairly generic urban vigilante story staple: Attractive young woman running through an alley at night gets mugged by gang and is then saved by the hero.
The six-page back-up in #4 is produced by a more conventional TMNT team and is set firmly in continuity, but isn’t quite as interesting. Entitled “The Grape” and set in post-Utrom NYC, it’s written by Murphy, penciled by Jim Lawson and inked and lettered by Eric Talbot. In it, a police squad raids a crack den full of Utroms, although instead of crack they are all addicted to “menta-wave" alien helmets that expand their consciousnesses in a variety of ways, a side-effect of which leaves them so locked-up in their own minds that they can forget about their bodies, and die in their menta-wave dens.