1989 saw the release of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition, the first revision of the AD&D line. The origins of 2e are multifarious. Gary Gygax, while still at TSR, indicated his intention to produce a new edition of the game, but he never had the opportunity to do so. He was ousted from the company in 1985 and shepherding the new edition fell to David "Zeb" Cook, who'd been at TSR for many years and had produced numerous classic adventures, such as The Isle of Dread (with Tom Moldvay) and Dwellers of the Forbidden City. By some accounts, 2e was published in order to sever the link between Gygax and D&D, much in the way that 1e itself may have been published in order to sever the link between Dave Arneson and D&D.
In any case, 2e was intended primarily to be a clean-up and rationalization of the original AD&D books. There was no apparent mandate that it be innovative and Cook worked hard by all accounts to make the new edition backward compatible with the previous one. By my lights, he largely succeeded on this score, although the incorporation of non-weapon proficiencies was a poor design decision, as was the elimination of classes such as the assassin and the monk and began the transformation of the thief into the rogue that would be finalized in 3e. Still, 2e, for all the little tweaks and changes it introduced, was, at least as presented in the Player's Handbook (the first time the apostrophe is used in the title, incidentally), about 80% identical to 1e, perhaps even more. One could easily pick up a 1e module or supplement and use it with 2e without the need for mechanical conversion.
In terms of feel, though, 2e was far removed from 1e, as is evidenced by the cover of the Player's Handbook, shown here:
The cover illustration is by Jeff Easley, the same artist who did the revision of the 1e PHB. The same logo is used, this time with the addition of the words "2nd Edition" and without the word "official" at the front.
Unlike the 1e revision cover, this cover has context, albeit a vague one. The heroic rider -- a warrior or knight of some sort -- is galloping astride his equally heroic steed through a canyon or mountain pass, followed by at least two companions, also on horseback. The overall thrust of the piece is dynamic; it's definitely not a static pose, but it is a pose nonetheless. The rider is looking directly at the viewer and he's holding his sword aloft, despite the lack of an obvious opponent. His companions are doing the same. Were they more clearly heading into battle, the presence of their swords wouldn't bother me so much, but seeing as they are traversing some rough terrain while mounted, one would think it more prudent to have both of their hands on the reins. The riders are attired in mostly plausible gear, although the focus character has a ridiculously winged helm. Again, the piece has at least a toehold in the past while pointing toward the future.
In many ways, I find this cover even more unsatisfactory than the 1e revision cover, which at least showed a wizard engaged in magical combat. The 2e cover says nothing about what D&D is about except in the most generic sense: it's a game of heroic sword-wielding guys boldly going off somewhere. I give it credit for illustrating more than one figure; D&D is, after all, about parties of adventurers, not lone wolves. But, overall, the cover simply conveys nothing at all. It has no flavor or feel. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say it is bland, evoking neither the grim and gritty sword & sorcery world of Trampier nor presaging the frenetic "wall of action" we see in the art of Wayne Reynolds.
Quite simply, this is a terrible cover and its flaws suggest to me a game that is unclear about its origins or purpose and that owes its existence to something other than creative expression.