It brings me absolutely no pleasure to say this; this ugliness involves more than the appearance, the slick paper feels gross and synthetic in comparison to the pages in my other AD&D tomes. But the typefaces lack personality; the cover featues a Romanticism lacking in previous hardcovers as well as, in an example of Ouroborous, intentionally or not emulating the cover sensibilities of mass market fantasy trilogy dreck. Never mind that the choice of a eyeshadow-wearing drunken grimacing Firbolg Giant (neutral-chaotic good alignment) seems an odd one.
Although the artwork for the Modron section is perfect; the en masse of workmanlike Holloway artwork eventually becomes an assault on the sensibilities. I don't mean to the say that the artwork is terrible, there are several great pieces such as the Ant Lion and Giant Pterosaur, but a lot of it is bland and the homogeny becomes unpleasant.
Instead of the lush and (idiosyncratically) comprehensive encounter matrices of the DMG and the Fiend Folio we get a radically new system that presents a range of 19-odd encounters instead of every possible one. However we do get several pages of Monsters by Terrain and Frequency on That Terrain that lists ever possible encounter by climate and terrain instead of % encounter tables utilizing that information.
Take a look at the back cover. "...including new creatures like the Deadly Puddings, Devas, and Valley Elves." Stirring stuff indeed, and again more odd "marquee monster" choices now getting into vaguely Spinal Tap/Encounter Critical-ish territory. And what the hell is up with "A must for the serious AD&D(TM) game player"?! The DM should be slapping this book out of the players hands!
Looking through the Monster Manual II while working on monster lists I seriously begin to wish that someone either:
A) Do a "netbook" hack of the MM II replacing the weaker artwork with pieces possessing more character.
B) Publish a simulacrum of the MM II
and in both cases completely mimic the page layout and numbering of the MM II so that it's as instinctive to reference as the original and including proper % encounter tables.
Now I don't seriously expect anyone to attempt the above; it's just an example of the thoughts that come to mind inspired by the sheer banal ugliness of the AD&D Monster Manual II.