The premise is that a young Native American girl, Izusa, has decided to raise an army of the dead to scourge the world of the white man. The US government has sent an insane military commander to settle the "Indian problem" with all the period appropriate genocide and bigotry expected. Meanwhile, there's something wrong with Auggie and Gillian's baby due to the fact its father was a deadman. Harry Pratt is also caught in blackmail and being forced to do things against his conscience to keep his secrets safe. As a gay Mormon Elder and politician, he's pretty much caught between a rock and a hard place as he can either have his life ruined by exposure of a secret that would get him killed in most parts of the United States at that time period or be party to horrific political corruption that may result in the deaths of innocents he's sworn to protect.
The story of Native American genocide and abuse by the United States is something that unfortunately hangs over the head of virtually every Western as well as the early history of the country. With the recent revelations about indigenous schools, it certainly was a timely book but perhaps weightier than it was meant to be. It's hard not to agree with the "villains" that Native American man is going to be nastily treated by history and that virtually anything is justified to avert that fate. Or, to put it another way, the "Buffy in the Old West" feeling of the books may not be something that is deep enough to properly grapple with the real life atrocities perpetuated by the US government. It attempts to be as respectful as possible but, man, this is some raw subject matter.
Much of the book feels like it is putting the Wild West behind it, the opening set in the present day, but I hope that is not the case. The Golgotha series is the best Weird Western series I have read and I've read well over a dozen. We get a framing device that suggests what Golgotha's history will be for the 20th century and hints that it might move to the Modern Times. I hope that's not the case as I think much of the series' unique flavor depends on combing Deadwood with the Dresden Files. Unfortunately, I feel like any sequels that follow this book will almost certainly take place in different time periods. The Old West was not actually that long a time period and the book puts the a lot of storylines to bed.
There's a lot of really good moments in this book with the best plots being Mutt and Harry Pratt's respective stories. Mutt is a man carrying a lot of anger to his people because of the way he was treated but is also aware that the United States military is nothing but a bunch of genocidal psychopaths toward natives. He is also someone who loves a white woman and has friends in Golgotha that will be killed if he doesn't stop Izusa. I'm not a big fan of moral equivalency being drawn in this particular story but I totally bought Mutt's conflict. Similarly, Harry Pratt is a man who has to go through the Daredevil: Born Again arc. A man with nothing to lose is a man without fear.
Unfortunately, the book's central conflict is yet another plot to release the Darkling/start the apocalypse and while it was played out in THE SHOTGUN ARCANA, there's a lot more emotion here because of what a terrible tragedy this all is. We know the Darkling will destroy the world if released but for the majority of the villains, they trust their leader knows how to control it. While I wish they'd come up with something else to do other than the end of the world, I feel the central plot still worked. There's going to be no victory here even if the plot is thwarted because the antagonists are just trying to survive.
In conclusion, I feel like this is probably my favorite of the series so far. It deals with weightier subjects and the consequences are bigger than any other. It also doesn't shy away from the ugliest features of the Wild West as well as the lies people tell themselves about it. Readers should be warned about that, though, since it is a heavier read than previous entries in the series and they weren't exactly light.