With Stephanie Hans providing the art for a story set largely in Valhalla, "Fearless Defenders" #7 finally brings interior art to this book that is on par with the gorgeous Mark Brooks covers. Not that Will Sliney's pages aren't good, but the elegant paintings of Annabelle Riggs wandering Valhalla and Valkyrie battling in the forests that Hans provides are simply stunning and filled with emotional resonance more akin to the softer tones of watercolors than the tones of pencils, inks and digital colors.
Hans probably painted digitally, but her imagery from start to finish is smooth and polished, fluid and graceful. Quite simply, Hans' art is well-matched to the spirit of Cullen Bunn's story in "Fearless Defenders" #7. Valkyrie squares off against murder trolls in a half-page image so lush with color that it could be an iconic cover for a Valkyrie one-shot or miniseries. Some of the imagery is so rich in shadowy emotion that it might be perhaps a bit dark for print, but it's likely the book is even more luminous in an electronic format.
Following the emotional stunner from the previous issue, Bunn shares the journey of both Riggs and Valkyrie as both women come to grips with what has happened and where this leaves them. Valkyrie, racked with guilt, decides to call in a favor from a long-time ally. I'll admit to not being intimately keen on the ally's recent happenings, which made the appearance a happy surprise for me, but I think the addition of that character to this series is a wonderful step in the right direction towards further embracing the legacy of "Defenders." With that move, Bunn sets about events that change the status quo for this series and the team and introduces (hopefully) a new member to the "Fearless Defenders." If that is the case, more insane challenges await these ladies shortly.
"Fearless Defenders" #7 takes what could, and maybe should, have been a breather issue for the characters and readers and emotionally amplifies it. Hans' beautiful artwork is perfect for a story of love and sacrifice. It will be interesting to see what visual approach this title takes next issue and beyond, but for now, this is one of the best-looking issues for this series as it hits all of the right marks to continue to grow the team and the characters on that team.