Dash Shaw's breakout family novel Bottomless Belly Button topped PWCW's third annual critics' polls. As in past years, regular PW critics were asked to select up to ten notable books, and book were ranked by total votes. Shaw's opus won with five votes.

Bottomless Belly Button follows the trend of graphic novels reflecting personal drama topping the Critics' Poll (Fun Home won in 2006, and Exit Wounds and Scott Pilgrim tied in 2007.) Shaw's huge complex story impressed with its formal daring and nuanced look at a favorite literary theme: the taxonomy and emotional geography of a family, in this case one where the aged parents have just announced their divorce, a shock which sends their children reeling into their own search for identity.

As in past years, a plethora of titles won but a single vote, but there was less consensus than in past years, with only a handful of titles receiving three or more votes. The eclectic result reflects a year of wide-ranging excellence in the graphic novel field. Results of the first and second year polls can be found here and here.

If there is an MVP of the list, it has to be the Hernandez Brothers, Jaime and Gilbert, with three of their books earning mentions. Jaime's The Education of Hopey Glass finished with the second highest vote total (deplicating his finish in 2006) and Gilbert's Speak of the Devil and the joint New Love and Rocket Stories Vol 1 were also mentioned.

Participants this year included Chris Barsanti, Steve Bunche, Johanna Draper Carlson, Erin Finnegan, Kate Fitzsimmons, Laura Hudson, Heidi MacDonald, Calvin Reid, Frank Santoro, Sam Thielman, and Douglas Wolk.

While there are many manga titles in the total list, PWCW Manga Editor Kai-Ming Cha's Top Manga list can be found here.

Following are the total vote getters and selected comments:

Five Votes

Bottomless Belly Button Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)

"Because gigantic, riveting, fascinatingly flawed works by unbelievably ambitious upstarts are just about my favorite thing." — Douglas Wolk

"In this vividly imagined story, members of the Loony family return home at the news that their elderly parents want a divorce after 45 years of marriage. Shaw has created a fascinating and impressively mature work that combines a classic tale of familial introspection and conflict with experimentalist cartooning, unusual humor and deep emotion." — Chris Barsanti

Three Votes

Disappearance Diary Hideo Azuma (Fanfare Ponent Mon)

"This manga has a positive outlook on life, and so it has been made with as much realism removed as possible." Azuma's cartoon-y look into his own life as a manga artist, homeless person, working class pipe layer, and alcoholic balances humor with darkness in a way that doesn't make you want to kill yourself. (EF)

The Education of Hopey Glass Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)

Jaime returns with new tales of the Locas crew, now a little older and wiser but just as unpredictably humane and comic as ever: Hopey has a new lover and is teaching young kids; Maggie is paired with Angel, teen athlete and superhero wannabe and Ray is hot for the voluptuous and goofy bombshell Vivian. (CR)

The Great Outdoor Fight Chris Onstad: (Dark Horse)

Comedy is often taken for granted, but Onstad mixes his sharp, unique cast with a story beftting their oddities for some of the biggest laughs of the year. (HM)

Omega the Unknown Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple (Marvel)

The best superhero comic anthologized in 2008: radically original in its approach, deliciously alienating (which is sort of the point) and totally gorgeous to look at. (DW)

What It Is Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)

There's so much life and joy in this book—it's impossible to read it and not want to immediately race off and make some art. (DW)

Zot! Complete Black and White Stories 1987-1991 Scott McCloud (Harper Collins)

We live in a wonderful time, with so many superlative works from all eras becoming available again in book form. I've anticipated having Scott McCloud's series in more permanent form for years, and now that it's here, it still makes me cry. Only this time, it's as much his new story notes on the trials of the struggling cartoonist he was then, and the conflict between aspirations and abilities, as it is the touching "Earth Stories" exploring teen struggles with coming out, alcoholic parents, and realizing you're not going to make your dreams come true. (JDC)

Two votes

Acme Novelty Library #19 F.C. Ware (Drawn & Quarterly)

Chris Ware's marvelous gifts as an illustrator notwithstanding, his greatest achievement in both "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth" and thus far in "Rusty Brown" has been the creation of despicable characters who become sympathetic the more we learn about their lives. In Acme #19, our hero Rusty's father Woody Brown gets the trademark Ware treatment: in a volume designed to look like an issue of an elderly sci-fi anthology, we read the account of Woody's life, a litany of miserable failures, sandwiched between comic "adaptations" of the only two sci-fi stories he's ever had published. Guess what? They're both really, really good. (ST)

Alan's War Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)

French artist Guibert turns American G.I. Alan Cope's incredible true stories from WWII into a compelling ligne claire page-turner. (LH)

Aria Kozue Amano (Tokyopop)

Amano's art makes setting a character. I've never been so excited to read a relaxing book about scenery (the sci-fi scenery of Mars terraformed into Venice). It's best to ignore the light hearted plot and share in Akari's sense of wonder at the world around her. (EF)

Aya of Yop City Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie (D & Q)

In the second volume of this delightful series, Abouet updates the hijinks around Aya -- a smart teenage girl living in Ivory Coast Africa in the 1970s -- and her boy-crazy friends, and reveals a comically shocking secret about her father. (CR)

Black Jack Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)

The legendary series by manga master Osamu Tezuka, about an unlicensed doctor and his amazingly inventive operations, comes to America. It's as crazy as you've heard, but well-suited for a culture obsessed with the autopsy porn of CSI. (JDC)

Cat Eyed Boy Kazuo Umezu (Viz)

No hugs, no lessons, just monsters, myth and mystery, all presented with masterful cartooning and a pervading sense of dread and fatalism. (HM)

Essential Dykes to Watch Out For Alison Bechdel (Houghton)

For some reason, Alison Bechdel's cartoons always make me think of "For Better or For Worse," which makes me laugh, and then the cartoons themselves make me laugh, and then everyone on the train is staring at me. So what I'm saying is, don't read this book on the train. (ST)

Kramer's Ergot #7 Edited by Sammy Harkham (Buenaventura Press)

25 years from now, people are going to be saying "Omigod, you've got KE7? I've always wanted to see that!" (DW)

Local Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly (Oni)

A complex young woman who can't stop running away moves across America and through her twenties one year, city, and issue at a time. (LH)

Red Colored Elegy Seiichi Hayashi (D & Q)

I'm normally not into experimental film or music, but this classic 1970's minimalist comic blew my mind. I was freaked out to find that animators in the 1970's faced similar problems (alcoholism, heartbreak) as animators/comic artists of today.

Skim Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books)

A teenage girl develops a relationship with a free-spirited teacher in a book that captures adolescence in all its terrible intensity and fragility. (LH)

Tamara Drewe Posy Simonds (Houghton)

It's Simmonds' delicate illustrations that make her complicated tales of modern manners, inspired by classic novels, so attractive. (JDC)

Three Shadows Cyril Pedrosa (First Second)

An epic tale of looming strangers told in starkly gorgeous lines; as vivid and memorable as an early Cormac McCarthy novel. (CB)

Travel Yokoyama Yuichi (Picturebox)

Okay, so it’s not new for 2008 as it was released in Japan a couple years ago, STILL, this book is my drug of choice. (FS)

Honorable Mention

Abandoned Cars Tim Lane (Fantagraphics)

Age of Bronze: Betrayal, Part 1 Eric Shanower (Image)

Astonishing X-Men Joss Whedon John Cassaday (Marvel)

Astro City: The Dark Age, Book 1 Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson (DC Comics)

Berlin: City of Smoke II Jason Lutes (D & Q)

Bodyworld Dash Shaw

Breakdowns Art Spiegeman (Pantheon)

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century-The Complete Newspaper Dailies Phil Nowlan, Dick Calkins (Hermes Press)

Capacity Theo Ellsworth (Secret Acres)

Cosmode Various Authors (Broccoli Books)

Cowa! Akira Toriyama (Viz)

Criminal Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips (Marvel)

Doktor Sleepless Warren Ellis, Ivan Rodriguez (Avatar)

Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Jessical Abel, Matt Madden (First Second)

Empowered Vol. 4 Adam Warren (Dark Horse)

Fairy Tail Hiro Mashima (Del Rey)

From Eroica with Love Yasuko Aoike (CMX)

Fujoshi Rumi Natsumi Konjoh (Media Blasters)

GANTZ Hiroya Oku (Dark Horse)

Hayate Cross X Blade Shizuru Hiyashiya (Seven Seas)

Hikaru No Go Yumi Hotta, Takeshi Obata (Viz)

Howard The Duck Omnibus Steve Gerber, Val Mayerik, Gene Colan, Frank Brunner, John Buscema, Carmine Infantino (Marvel)

I Live Here Mia Kirshner, J.B. Mackinnon, Paul Shoebridge, Michael Simons (Pantheon)

I Shall Never Return Kazuna Uchida (Deux Press)

Jamilti and Other Stories Rutu Modan (D & Q)

Joker Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo (DC Comics)

Kick Ass Mark Millar, John Romita Jr. (Marvel)

Kitchen Princess Natsumi Ando, Miyuki Kobayashi (Del Rey)

La Muse Adi Tandtimadh, Hugo Petrus (Big Head)

Little Nothings: The Curse of the Umbrella Lewis Trondheim (NBM)

Love and Capes: Do You Want to Know a Secret? Thom Zahler (IDW)

Love and Rockets New Stories no. 1 Jaime, Gilbert and Mario Hernandez (Fantagraphics)

Magic Trixie Jill Thompson (HarperCollins)

Me and the Devil Blues Akira Hiramoto (Del Rey)

Miss Don't Touch Me Hubert, Kerascoet (NBM)

Museum Vaults Marc-Antoine Mathieu (NBM)

My Heavenly Hockey Club Ai Morinaga (Del Rey)

Nana Ai Yazawa (Viz)

Nat Turner Kyle Baker (Abrams)

Paul Goes Fishing Michel Rabagliati (D & Q)

PS 238: Extraterrestrial Credit Aaron Williams (Do Gooder)

Sand Chronicles Hinako Ashihara (Viz)

Screamland Vol. 1 Harold Snipe, Hector Casanova (Image)

Seduce Me After the Show Est Em (Deux Press)

Sinfest Tatsuya Ishida (Museworks)

Skyscrapers of the Midwest Joshua Cotter (AdHouse Books)

Slam Dunk! Takehiko Inoue (Viz)

Solanin Inio Asano (Viz)

Speak of the Devil Gilbert Hernandez (Dark Horse)

Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History Harvey Pekar and various (Hill & Wang)

Suppli Mari Okazaki (Tokyopop)

Swallow Me Whole Nate Powell (Top Shelf)

Swan Kyoko Ariyoshi(CMX)

The Burma Chronicles Guy Delisle (D & Q)

The Complete Ro-Busters Pat Mills, David Gibbons (Rebellion)

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Omnibus Gilbert Shelton (Knockabout Comics)

The Herbie Archives Vol. 1 Shane O'Shea, Ogden Whitney (Dark Horse)

The Ice Wanderer Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)

The Lagoon Lille Carré (Fantagraphics)

The Rabbi's Cat 2 Joann Sfar (Pantheon)

Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters/ Caged Angels Warren Ellis, Mark Deodato (Marvel)

Tokko: Devil’s Awaken Tohru Fujisawa (Tokyopop)

Too Cool to Be Forgotten Alex Robinson (Top Shelf)

Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child Rick Geary (NBM)

Two Will Come Kyungok Kang (Netcomics)

Usagi Yojimbo Volume 22: Tomoe's Story Stan Sakai (Dark Horse)

We Were There Yuuki Obata (Viz)

Yakitate!! Japan Takashi Hashiguchi (Viz)

Yokaiden Nina Matsumoto (Del Rey)