Over at the Seforim Blog , Eliezer Miller recently posted a scathing review of Artscroll's new edition of Sefer Yishiyahu, the book of Isaiah. In competition with Judaica Press' extant and complete Nach series Artscroll has slowly been rolling out a version of its own. This set is different from the books in its older Tanach series. Whereas those were exhaustively researched works formatted with a few lines of the Hebrew text and translation at the top of the page and tons of commentary at the bottom, these new books are formatted to look like they could replace the old Mikraos Gedolos volumes. The text on the Hebrew side is clear and in an eye-catching format. The communtary, while not as long as the Tanach series counterpart, is quite detailed. For all the ideological differences one might have with Artscroll there is no denying they put a lot of effort into making their seforim look fabulous. So what trouble might Eliezer Miller have had with this new edition of Isaiah?
Going through that post Miller raises points that should be completely obvious. Artscroll isn't in the business of putting out comprehensive commentaries that include secular information. Miller notes a lack of interest in archeological and anthropological information that might have enhanced the commentary but that's not the crowd Artscroll is selling to. They're looking right at the yeshivish crowd and those BT's who want to fit in with that group. The commentary is meant for people who know nothing of Nach and want to get some basics. This would explain most of Miller's objection.
But after reading Miller's review I think I can explain most of the problems he has in another way.
Remember that within the Chareidi community the study of Nach is very problematic. Some yeshivos ban it outright. Others let you study the weekly hafataros but not much else. The idea that someone would sit down with a set of Bible books and a good commentary to understand them is incomprehensible in their worldview. Why would a good bochur want to do that when he could be learning Gemara and halacha? From this perspective Artscroll is actually being quite daring in wading into this area.
Knowing this Rav Nosson Sherman, the chief editor, is simply doing what he is expected to do for his books to be accepted and get the right haskamos. Were he to include an essay showing the differences between our text of Isaiah and the one on display in the Israel museum he'd face a tarring and feathering. You mean there's different texts?! Were he to try and explain all those times in Nach when major figures in our history commit acts that are apparently against halacha without simply retreating into a "Chazal knew best" shelter he'd be forced to pull the line off the shelves.
When it comes to their Talmud Artscroll is a huge resource. The time and intelligence they've invested in that series makes those books masterpieces. When it comes to their other books, however, the overarching agenda - the Agudah version of this is the only legitimate version, etc. - tends to show through. Their infamous translation of Shir HaShirim is a travesty to any thinking person but then, Artscroll doesn't want you to think when you're learning Shir HaShirim, just to know what you should be thinking. Similarly their digests of famous commentators (the Pirkei Avos of the Maharal and the Sfar Emes series come to mind) aren't so much presentations of the original work but rather the Artscroll author's version so you won't reach the "wrong" conclusion you might have if you had actually seen a decent translation of the original.
For those who are paying really careful attention you'll also notice that the Satmar philosophy of anti-Zionism infects their works in the relevant places. Consider Artscroll's commentary on the Three Oaths at the end of the Kesobus or the couple of places in their translation of the Kinnos where they brazenly insert Satmar principles (no forcing the end! no ascending like a wall!) even when there's absolutely no Hebrew lines on the other side to stick them to.
Their Nach series is therefore simply more of the same. The average person, it seems, can't be trusted to think about what he's read in Nach so Artscroll saves you the trouble. Eliezer Miller wonders what's wrong with Artscroll but really there's nothing wrong. They are the publishing arm of the Agudah and the Agudah has an agenda. Enough said.