Strangely enough I like your line-art much better than the finished piece. I am not really qualified for critique, but if you like to take my opinion into consideration I think that the second step is the most readable and the last one is a bit over the top effects-wise.
Hey, I appreciate it. I still struggle with that clarity you're talking about and usually my feedback reads "more contrast, more light effects" so I can't do much about that. But I definitely agree that it can be done a lot better. Still working on it